Abridged from www.shrm.org
Is tuition assistance on the agenda for your next departmental planning session? If so, here are some recommendations to consider:
Make your policy understandable to all. Make sure collateral materials are widely available and understandable to younger employees who aren’t accustomed to insurance claims, expense account reimbursements or financial forms. Tuition assistance is not worth much when people don’t understand it well enough to use it.
Consider a 50 percent total reimbursement model. Many companies choose to reimburse up to $5,250 per year, which is the ceiling that the federal government allows for tuition benefit expenditures to be exempted from withholding tax. At today’s prices for higher education, that may not take a student very far. Your employees may be more motivated to finish a degree if assistance is spread over a longer period of time.
Thus, employers might change their policy language from stating that they will reimburse “100 percent up to $5,250 per year” (which students would likely use up within a few months) to “50 percent up to $5,250 per year” (which would extend at least six months).
Adjust the time frame to match employment dates. An artificial year-end time frame on a tuition reimbursement policy can be adjusted to a fiscal year or an employee anniversary date instead. Most companies have already made this adjustment for vacation and sick benefit accruals. You’ll achieve a more even workflow without extra bottlenecks in December/January when other year-end fiscal activities are occurring.
Be flexible about end dates. Unfortunately, today’s market dynamics also include layoffs, which rarely happen neatly at the beginning of a pay period or between semesters. Most tuition reimbursement policies attempt to make good for the student-employee until the end of a class or term; this can be a way to handle the issue fairly and humanely.
Ask employees to share what they’ve learned. Your students could recap some major course principles to a group of co-workers, which spreads the educational value of your investment and encourages other employees to take advantage of the benefit.